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Journalist refuses to pay fine, sent to jail for insulting AKP lawmaker

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A journalist and the head of a journalist association in eastern Turkey was sent to jail after he refused to pay a fine he was given on charges of insulting a lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Sinan Aygül, head of the Bitlis Journalists Association and the editor-in-chief of the Bitlis News website, went to the Bitlis Courthouse on Tuesday morning to appear at a hearing where he was detained and subsequently jailed to due to a previous court decision.

Aygül was ordered to pay a fine due to a news report in 2014 about alleged government corruption in a $450 million geothermal power plant project in Bitlis. In the story Aygül referred to Bitlis AKP deputy Vahit Kiler as a “cunning politician,” using the word “wolf” in Turkish.

Aygül was tried on insult charges and fined TL 1,500 at the end of the trial, the payment of which was suspended unless he was convicted of another crime within five years.

The lawyer said the TL 1,500 fine corresponds to a prison sentence of 75 days and that his client will be released from prison when he pays the fine.

In 2019 Aygül was handed down a prison sentence for reporting on the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl in the province on the grounds that he violated the confidentiality of the investigation. His sentence was later upheld by a regional appeals court, although he can still fight it at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Following the second sentence he was given, Aygül was supposed to pay the fine stemming from his first trial, which he has refused to do in order to expose the lack of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country, according to a statement from his lawyer, Burhan Aksoy.

His lawyer said it is up to Aygül to decide to pay the fine and get out of jail.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of the journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, announced in May.

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